The Knowledge-is-Power Fiction

Big Theatre, perhaps moreso than most industries, is powered in part by a belief that knowledge is power. Theatre is to many the creation of artificial scarcity through the strategic release of proprietary information to the public. In an era where the public’s relationship to data has changed pronouncedly, this attitude can be a liability.

Here are the primary fictions regarding information. Theatre hardly has a monopoly on these fictions, but they are heavily invested in them.

• All data is controllable
• All data should be controlled
• Customers can and should be controlled
• The organization, not the customer, should be in control
• The worst possible scenario is the most likely
• The only attitude of an organization to its data is to secure it

These ideas are suspect for a couple of reasons.

• All data, with very few exceptions (such as some economic data) is already available to the public; between the Web, blogs, forums, YouTube, etc. everything is already accessible
• Efforts to control data sends a message to customers that you wish for them to remain passive and ingest what data you choose to give them and that you believe you know what’s best for them and they should be grateful should you choose to share any of the data; customers have already rejected being force-fed
• Social software is demonstrably more effective and infinitely cheaper than broadcast marketing

Your only real choice is whether or not to influence the use of that data by entering into a conversation with your customers. Choosing to remain outside of a conversation that has already begun does not make the conversation go away.

There is another reason why this attitude predominates as it does. To throw down the gauntlet and “take a stand” against sharing information due to “security issues” creates the appearance of prudence and concern and is therefore politically beneficial in the short run to anyone who advocates it.

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